Free Fashion Essay Sample
The common meaning of fashion expressed in the Oxford English Dictionary can be simply presented as a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behavior (OED Online). However, fashion can be viewed as much more than just the way of dressing. Today, fashion represents the whole lifestyle for many people. Fashion is the way one presents oneself to the world and it is not only about the appearance. Nancy Etcoff describes fashion as “an art form, a status marker, and a display of attitude. We create it, as we create architecture and furniture, to help us negotiate our relations with the outside world and to provide us with comfort and protection” (Etcoff 207-208). Such all-embracing definition gives one probably the best explanation of what fashion is. Nevertheless, there is much more to discuss about the society’s notion of fashion. Let us have a closer look at what we know about this phenomenon and what is there to learn about it.
Fashion as we now understand it has emerged centuries ago. Nevertheless, the very word with the reference to the concept of fashion was not used in the sense of popular style of clothes or behavior until the mid 16th century. However, historians date the birth of “fashion” to 14th century Europe (213). Despite that we know that people wore clothes hundreds of years before this period, the notion of fashion in terms of style was not familiar to them. It may seem that fashion was not important to our ancient ancestors and the only thing that mattered to them was the utility of the clothes they wore. However, if we explore the lifestyle of earlier feudalistic societies, we can see that the most respective figures of that time were buried with various attributes of fashion that were designating the high status of the deceased person. The same customs can be traced even in ancient Egypt which indicates that people were in some way familiar with fashion at least as the indicator of status after all.
With the lapse of time, fashion has gained new functions apart from indicating the status and welfare. For instance, in the 20th century, fashion has become the tool of social protest. In other words, some particular population groups that were often regarded as the outcasts by the majority, wore specific clothes that drew attention to those wearing it in order to standout against the crowd and declare their worldviews and belonging to a certain community. Such clothes were designed not to comfort but to stir the imagination of the viewer (217). In the 20th century, people got the modern notion of fashion and it became the inseparable part of the society’s life.
Continuing the topic of new functions of fashion, we can examine Cathy Horyn’s article about the changing status of the commercial clothes. Horyn states that commercial clothes are the benchmark of fashion industry today while before they were its antithesis (Horyn 1). The author explores how Hedi Slimane has changed the attitude of Yves Saint Laurent by adding the attitude of a trendy street label to his clothes while maintaining the high quality of the product (1). Indeed, such strategy improved the brand’s revenue and put it on the pedestal of the biggest luxury brands. The popularity of the street clothes among contemporary designers indicates that fashion finally became symbiotic with the society and is no longer the privilege of the upper classes.
Etcoff, Nancy L. Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty. New York: Doubleday, 1999. Print.
"fashion, n." OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2014. Web. 23 January 2015.
Horyn, Cathy. “Sign of the Times”. The New York Times Style Magazine. 2014. PDF File.